‘Greatest ever’ Messi is a gift that fell from heaven – Laporta

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The former Barcelona president recalls the first time he saw the Argentine attacker and says he can play on for many more years to come

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Joan Laporta says Lionel Messi is a "gift that fell from heaven" for Barcelona and believes the five-time Ballon d'Or winner can extend his career to give plenty more joy to the Catalan club.

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As part of an exclusive interview with Goal, the former Barca president recalled the first time he saw the Argentine attacker in action and admitted he was blown away by the talented teenager.

"I saw him play in the cadete (youth team) and, with 20 minutes left, he scored four goals," he said. "He came on, with 20 minutes left, because he was coming back from an injury or something, and he scored four goals. And we stood there watching him in the youth teams: ’Look at how this kid plays, amazing!’

"He played the same as he does now. It was a very similar style. The thing is that he has matured, he has become a man. Now he is a father too. He made his debut for the first team at 16 years old. I remember the first contract we gave him and when he made his debut at the Estadio do Dragao, in Porto."

Laporta Messi quote

Laporta was Barca president when Messi made his first-team bow in 2004 and saw the forward develop into the world's best player during Pep Guardiola's time at the club, right up until his mandate ended in 2010.

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"He has been a gift that fell from heaven, a privilege that Barça has had," the 55-year-old lawyer said. "We need to keep enjoying him still because Leo has many years left.

Ex-Barca chief Laporta hails 'gift' Messi

“He is a gift that fell from heaven.” Ex-Barcelona chief Joan Laporta has paid tribute to Lionel Messi.

Posted by Goal.com on Wednesday, 2 August 2017

"With the characteristics he has, I’m sure he will play on for many more years and give many more joys to Barca. And it’s a privilege. To have a player who is the best player in the history of football, but also one who has the humility that Leo has, we have seen him mature and it’s fantastic. He is a personality, a great man."

Joan Laporta

Messi with Laporta

Despite watching the Argentine grow at Camp Nou, Laporta admits he is still surprised when he watches the Barca forward in full flow.

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"Leo surprises continuously," he said. "You see him and he does things that are unique. He did unique things before and he does unique things now, in terms of the versatility of his game, the speed of his game, he has the ball stuck to his foot like nobody else, the way he changes rhythm, the vision he has, he’s a passer, a goalscorer, he knows how to conserve his energy…

"He always surprises you with his versatile play and what is a pleasure is the attitude he has in all areas of life: playing football, in his family, as a father and as a person."

And although he is downbeat about the current state of Barca under Josep Maria Bartomeu, Laporta is more optimistic when it comes to the team's hopes on the pitch next season.

"With Messi," he said. "Everything is possible."

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